Summer Camp – Hope for the Pandemic Kids

Homeless and incarceration and school dropouts are all connected. We are proposing a summer camp to help get kids excited about school and get them the extra help they need.

by Amrit & Loralyn

If our cover photo made you uncomfortable, that’s okay – we had a hard time with it, too, and have an even more difficult time seeing the encampments on the sidewalks of New York City. Homelessness is a national crisis that we need to unite to solve. If the photo motivated you to want to learn how you can help reduce the tragic trajectory of pandemic kids who are at risk of dropping out, fantastic! Let’s work together to give kids access to a community who supports them, to programs that can educate and inspire them, and skills that they need to encourage them to learn and grow towards their future success. You can donate to our upcoming “Silly & Serious Virtual Summer Camp Program” for teens.

This article is not about homelessness. It’s about the risks that an increasing number of kids are facing today because they are dropping out of school and not learning what they need in school. We have a partial solution but need your help. Homelessness is a huge problem that I, Loralyn, care deeply about, and hope to find ways to address it in the future – but I can’t help in a massive, meaningful way at this time. I just do what I can locally on a small scale

An estimated 240,000 students across 21 states in the USA didn’t return to school after the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study by the Associated Press and Stanford University’s Big Local News project. After the lockdowns, they neither re-joined their old schools, nor enrolled elsewhere. They simply disappeared.

What happened to the pandemic kids? More importantly, what is going to happen to those pandemic dropouts longer term as they go through life? We already have a homeless crisis with inadequate services to treat people like human beings. Is our inability to find these pandemic kids and teach them going to lead to future homelessness or incarceration? Maybe. And that’s tragic.

But the problem isn’t limited to the quarter of a million missing pandemic kids. That number is alarming, but the problem is bigger than that. We are doing millions of kids – already enrolled in school – a disservice by not teaching them the fundamentals like financial literacy, life skills, social skills, soft skills, and so on. And the risk of dropping out continues to grow along with anxiety and depression.


Teens Need Our Help

Yet we CAN help these pandemic kids. We can do so via our virtual Summer Camp. And we can even help those who can’t afford to enrol because education is a RIGHT; not a privilege. We need to be a more inclusive society. You can help by making a donation.

We’ve already seen the ripple effect of COVID in the kids who stayed in school. The National Report Card 2022 is both depressing and disgraceful. Competency in math and reading declined in all but one state. Moreover, the decline is the most dramatic recorded since the survey debuted in 1990. And, if that’s not already sobering, high percentages of children in every state are categorized with a proficiency level of “below basic.” The same question should be posed here, what is going to happen to these pandemic kids as they go through life?

There is a direct relationship between school enrolment and juvenile arrests: those that stay in school, generally stay out of jail. That’s why disadvantaged youth, who, due to various circumstances, cannot join mainstream schooling systems, are more prone to committing crimes and spending time in jail. Dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than high school graduates. 68% of all males in prison do not have a high school diploma. Some schools are on the verge of being shut down because of underuse.

It’s not that no one has taken notice. The “missing” students have received crisis-level attention since the schools reopened. After all, the schools receive money from the city, state, and federal governments, for each student. The real problem lies with the free public education schools where monetary benefits are not associated with the number of students coming to the school.


Why did some kids chose not to return to schools after the pandemic?

Although some students were disenchanted with conventional schooling even before the pandemic, it became a trigger point. The pandemic sent many students home, forced many students to stay home without much of a social outlet, and somehow broke the habit that kept them coming back.

Some students sought employment instead of coming back to school when the lockdown was eased, and the schools were opened. Some had to take care of their families. Some moved out of the country. Many students lost both their parents, or one of them and there is no longer anyone to supervise them or guide them. Many parents, since they were working remotely, moved to low-cost areas because they didn’t have to travel for their jobs.

Falling behind in studies is also a big factor in students dropping out because compared to students who could study at home, those who couldn’t, are under great stress to catch-up. Therefore, instead of putting in a great effort to cover 6-8 months of studying to get back to a pre-pandemic baseline, they quit.

An estimated 26% school kids who didn’t come back switched to home schooling. Whereas enrolment in private schools grew by 4% for the academic year of 2021-22, home schooling enrolment jumped by 30%.

A lower number of preschool students enrolling is also being attributed to a drop in school-age population that experienced a decline of roughly 254,000 in the first two years of the pandemic. What this really means is that increasingly lower numbers of babies are born each year which clearly affects the pre-school and elementary school enrolment numbers.

Nonetheless, there is a big chunk of students who have simply fallen off the radar. Several studies and investigative reports have been conducted to find them – but there are few answers. Many have simply “disappeared.”


Why dropping out of school is harming kids

Schooling, despite all its faults (and yes, that homework requirement can be a painful part of learning), offers a vibrant ecosystem that has evolved over decades. Interaction with peers is vital to well-being, fostering social connections, and developing strong communication skills. Plus, it offers fundamental lessons in interpersonal skills which rapidly shift from essential to mission critical when students graduate and enter the workplace.

School, through its sports, clubs, and academics, provides social engagement and opportunities for leadership development. Regimental studying builds mind-body discipline and creates healthy habits. Students learn to sit and concentrate for an extended amount of time – which is a rapidly diminishing skill. Extracurricular activities help to constructively channel their energy and foster leadership qualities. And there is a high level of accountability between students and teachers.

There are multiple long-term negative consequences of students not returning to school. Aside from the fact that a greater number of young adults end up in jail after dropping out, there are many cultural and social problems that children will experience after dropping out.

At a minimum, a high school diploma is required for employment. Without schooling, students can expect lifelong struggles to find jobs, let alone a steady income. Even if they need to acquire vocational skills to become a CDL driver, an electrician, or a plumber, they need basics in time management, project management, communication, and so on. Many educational curricula already lack these life skills or do not adequately delve into them – how will a dropout learn them and succeed in their job search?

Not being able to find reliable employment leads to financial troubles. This, in turn, affects productivity and can result in poor physical and mental health and stress on interpersonal relationships. There is constant anxiety and uncertainty. Insufficient finances reduce quality of life and limit access to healthcare and healthy food options. Continuous hardship makes people bitter and may grow to resent society which further exacerbates their problems and can lead to emotional and physical violence. It soon becomes a vicious cycle.


The Path to Homelessness and/or Incarceration

Early school dropouts also find it difficult to communicate and integrate within society. Their social circle is limited because many friendships are formed during school days. They don’t have a sense of belonging and this leads to depression and social anxiety. They don’t develop the necessary social skills and communication skills to express themselves and consequently, often lead isolated lives.

Studies have shown that among 25-34-year-olds in the labor force, unemployment rate for high school dropouts is 13% compared to 7% among those who have completed their high school (source). In the same age group, high school dropouts live less healthy lives compared to those who have completed high school, regardless of their income. According to the U.S. Census bureau, on average, a high school dropout makes $10,000 less than someone who has graduated from high school (source).

Even society pays dearly. The community is deprived of productive workers. There are higher costs associated with incarceration. Due to their unhealthy lifestyles, lots of money is spent on health care and social services. Streets and neighbourhoods become unsafe. Children of such parents often become victims of the similar circumstances and the problem is perpetuated down the generational line. An average high school dropout costs the economy approximately $272,000 over their lifetime through lower tax contributions, high rates of criminal activities, greater reliance on welfare, and higher reliance on Medicaid and Medicare.

Education is a fundamental human right. It promotes individual freedom. It brings multiple development benefits that are not available in the absence of school education. School education is particularly important for economically and socially marginalised communities.

Children are the future of the country. From them the country gets its workers, citizens, entrepreneurs, and leaders. A high number of students not coming back to schools diminishes the pool of qualified people who can become contributing citizens. This puts a great strain on human and financial resources.


So, What’s the Solution?

If investigative journalists and social study researchers can’t find the ~250,000 missing “pandemic kids,” then it’s unlikely that we can either. That’s not what STEERus does. Nor is it the remit of our nonprofit, HELPipedia, which is powered by the STEERus platform and focuses on social responsibility in the realm of youth development.

That said, HELPipedia does provide content and enrichment programs. Many of them are free. Some are discounted. And, as a nonprofit, corporations or generous individuals can make financial contributions to provide learning opportunities for those who cannot afford them. As a nonprofit, your contributions to HELPipedia are tax-deductible.

This summer, HELPipedia is launching our “Silly & Serious Virtual Summer Camp.” It’s silly in that we are all committed to making learning fun. And it’s serious because we understand the long-term ramifications if children are not taught the soft skills and interpersonal or people skills that they need for success in life. Plus, it is fundamental to our organization that we accommodate people with special needs and offer an integrated learning experience so that we can all learn from each other as well as learn the topic being instructed.

We are preparing the curriculum and timeline for our Silly & Serious Virtual Summer Camp now. To learn more or to donate now (before we enable our automated donation collection system), please contact:

And thank you for making it to the end of this article. We have a long way to go to help kids in need, but every step is one step forward.



Photo by Timur Weber:

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